LOVE: Must Read Books by Asian Authors: NonFiction/Memoir Edition

must read books by asian authors nonfiction memoir edition juicygreenmom

As I have been working on a nonfiction book featuring stories from my own life, I started digging into books by Asian authors in the memoir and nonfiction genre. What I didn’t realize was how emotional it would be to read and hear stories that resonated so strongly with me. All of us have an innate need to feel seen, and reading stories by people from your ethnic and racial background can do that.

(Note: For readers in the U.S., I’ve included links for because they are a climate neutral certified company, Certified B corp, and they infuse funding into independently owned bookstores!)

We Were Dreamers

by Simu Liu

I listened to Simu read the audiobook and followed along with the print copy. I knew I was going to love it but I didn’t know how deeply and viscerally I would react. I laughed so much and I also cried so much. I don’t think I’ve ever connected so personally to someone else’s story in print – it brought to the surface so many emotions that I had long buried along with the abuses and memories of my childhood.
Yes, abuses. Calling it what it is – that in itself is such a transformative thing for me.

I have so much respect for how much Simu has embraced his role as an ambassador for all Asian Canadians and Americans. His story is shared by so many of us – let’s not be afraid to tell our stories. To let our stories take up space. Thank you Simu for your honesty and your willingness to show vulnerability. I finished the book with a cry. Then listening to the acknowledgments made me sob. 😭

Superfan: How Pop Culture Broke My Heart

by Jen Sookfong Lee

Reading this book was seeing myself – Jen articulates so well the real life struggles of being human, being a trauma survivor, being a Chinese Canadian woman, and relating this all to the pop culture icons that influence our collective culture. It’s witty, it’s hilarious, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s honest. A definite must read.

Making a Scene

by Constance Wu

Listening to Constance Wu read her book was truly moving. There were several times I cried listening to the emotion in her voice while she talked about her experiences. She didn’t ask to be the face of female #representasian – she just wanted to be an actor. So much pressure was put on her while she navigated some really gross stuff, and I applaud her for her honesty about the abuse she faced, and the toll it all took on her mental health.

Biting the Hand: Growing Up Asian in Black and White America

by Julia Lee

Although I’m not a Korean American (I’m Chinese Canadian), I related so much to many of her experiences. Her struggles with belonging, with racism, with the cultural chasm between immigrant parents and American-born child, and with coming to terms with her racial identity – truly made me feel seen. She also explains a lot of concepts with regards to racism, which I think is important to give people labels for what they’re experiencing. It was akin to an Asian woman version of Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be An Antiracist. I definitely felt all the feels, especially in her stories about her mother. We second generation immigrant children can have very complicated relationships with our parents.

Crying in H Mart

by Michelle Zauner

The audiobook was very powerfully narrated by Michelle Zauner – I cried several times. As an Asian Canadian, it was incredibly relatable for me and I had so many common experiences growing up. As a mixed-race child, Michelle also explores the complexities of racism, belonging, and privilege that come with it. A beautiful tribute to her mother and an honest look at the immigrant mother and second generation daughter relationship – this book is heart-wrenching and raw, but also full of hope.

Dinner on Monster Island

by Tania De Rozario

This book of memoir essays was not something I would have picked up, based on the link to horror films (which I am too much of a scaredy cat to watch). But then I heard the author on a podcast episode of Can’t Lit with Jen Sookfong Lee and Dina Del Bucchia and realized it was much more about her difficult life experiences growing up in Singapore as an intersectionally marginalized person. THEN I found out she was in the lineup for The FOLD’s virtual festival so I knew I had to read it. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Tania herself and it was profoundly moving. I really know nothing about Singapore, other than the fact that there are ethnically Chinese people who live there. I had no knowledge of how oppressive the government and society were on so many levels. I could identify with some of Tania’s experiences as someone with Chinese parents who held traditional values, but I could not fathom some of the childhood trauma she experienced. This book of essays is informative, fascinating, heartbreaking, and reflective, and made me examine my own inner depths.

What books would you add to this list of nonfiction & memoir books by Asian authors?


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